After a cold, wet, windy week in Cumbria I couldn't wait for a dry bright day, to get back down the lakes. At last, today was the day, and it was well worth waiting for.
The gentle breeze was from the south for a change and this pushed the noise and steam from the mill away from Brooklands lake allowing me to hear, locate and photograph a flock of maybe two dozen Siskins feeding in the Alder trees. Further round I accidentally flushed a Bittern from the reedbed adjacent to one of the fishing platforms, which flew away strongly and seemed to come down on Abbey Mead lake, no doubt cursing me roundly.
As I made my way to the small wood by the river I watched a Little Egret flying sedately downstream. This was number 68 for the year at New Hythe and warranted a small cheer and a feeling that this would be a good morning. As I arrived at the river I had a call from Terry Laws who had just arrived and agreed to wait there for him to join me. As I waited I scanned the exposed banks on the falling tide and found Lapwing, Redshank, Kingfisher and a Sandpiper species further downstream, too far to be sure whether it was Common or Green. Thankfully when Terry arrived he had his scope with him and we were able to confirm Green Sandpiper, number 69! Could it get better?
We spent about an hour and a half scanning the river, sky and North Downs, joined also by Martin Warburton and the lovely Flossie (his golden retriever), with three pairs of eyes I felt sure that there would be a number 70 on the cards. Common Gull, Gt Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Kestrel were spotted and another Kingfisher arrived on the scene but was seen off in no uncertain terms by the first one after a fantastic, brilliant blue, high speed chase down the river which was superb to watch in the bright sun.
Last week, Terry reported seeing no less than eight Buzzards circling over the sunken marsh, I haven't recorded one at New Hythe yet this year so I paid particular attention to the sky above the North Downs and bingo! at 10.50 I found one just gaining height above the hills, come in number 70! Soon after this Terry spotted three more, all rising and circling on the thermals in the distance, they're just like buses!
Martin left us and we made our way to the sunken marsh. Here we were greeted with singing Dunnocks and Wrens, a Goldcrest, a grunting Water Rail, unfortunately not seen, yet another Buzzard directly over our head and a pair of Reed Buntings, number 71. I commented to Terry that all I needed now was a Peregrine and five minutes later he spotted one flying high among a flock of Gulls, fantastic, what a great bird for number 72! This was soon followed by a Sparrowhawk which gave us a quartet of raptor species, what a difference the sun makes.
We decided to call it a day now and head to Snodland to grab a picture or two of the Waxwings which are still in the area, pausing only when I spotted another four Buzzards circling together above Brooklands before drifting north. That made an amazing nine seen this morning, I don't know how many were duplicates but they were great to see anyway. Before we left for Snodland we checked the swampy area opposite the millstream to try and find a Water Rail. We didn't find one but we did find two Common Snipe which was a nice bonus and finished the day with 47 species, a great start to the February NH list. As for the Waxwings........well, you can't win them all!
I nearly forgot, I had two visits from a Lesser Redpoll in the garden on Sunday morning. I was really pleased with that, the first for three or four years I think, so the list is actually 73.